Exploring Deus Ex: Mankind Divided's Open World, Side Quests, and More
A way with words.
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Deus Ex games have consistently shared several central pillars: there's the first-person, firearm-focused combat and the rich, challenging stealth gameplay, of course, but the games also allow players to hack, explore, and even talk their way to victory. We've previously seen plenty of the stealth and combat pillars from Deus Ex: Mankind Divided thanks to some early hands-on time with a few self-contained story missions, but the team at Eidos Montreal revealed almost nothing about the connective tissue that will flesh out the campaign between firefights.
That finally changed last week when I sat down with a new six-hour chunk of the game, which contained two open world sections, several side missions, and nearly a dozen decision-driven conversations. I also got an early look at the game's added crafting system, as well as antihero Adam Jensen's new augments. Here's what I learned about all five features.
Mankind Divided may have relocated its ongoing story to Prague, but the new setting retains the same overall structure we saw in predecessor Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Rather than a single contiguous map, the game contains several discrete open areas that are connected by a subway system--walk into a station, select a destination on the map, and enjoy a brief cutscene as you're whisked away to another part of the city.
Much like the streets of Detroit, Prague's neighborhoods feel slightly unnatural and claustrophobic. Though you're free to explore these areas at your own pace--tracking down hidden areas and items, talking to civilians, and maybe even stumbling onto a side quest or two--I was frequently met by empty cul de sacs. Rather than feeling like an authentic city, the section of Prague I saw felt like, well, just a level in a video game, too tubular and artificial to function as a believable, immersive world.
That said, the buildings and sewers I could access were densely packed with hidden vents, hackable computer terminals, shady weapons dealers, and more. And judging by the healthy number of locations displayed on the subway map (and the fact that certain story missions take place in different locations entirely), Mankind Divided's world will likely dwarf that of Human Revolution. With so much more to see, it's a bit too early to fully judge this component of the game.
While I may not be totally sold on the world, Mankind Divided definitely delivers a heavier dose of side content than its predecessor. Not only are there more side missions, the missions themselves are now more elaborate, nearly rivaling the complexity of the main story content in some cases.
For example, while exploring the streets of Prague, I was stopped at a checkpoint by a crooked cop who informed me a certain acquaintance of his could provide me with some expertly forged ID papers--a necessity for any augmented individual hoping to move freely through the bitterly divided city. Wanting to shut down his little extortion racket, I played along and quickly found myself sneaking into a warehouse, subduing some thugs, avoiding trip lasers, hacking a door, and confronting the forger herself in a tense, thoughtful conversation. And that wasn't even the end of the mission.
Of course, this type of content remains totally optional. The game always gave me an option to decline when speaking with quest-givers, and the mission menu displays all active side quests, implying you're under no obligation to complete them quickly...or at all. Interestingly, though, I did receive a warning screen before I boarded a chopper to head to the next major story mission in another area. Apparently progressing through the campaign eliminates the option to complete certain side quests.
Like the side content, Mankind Divided's social systems feel more fully-realized than ever. I encountered full conversations more frequently during my hands-on time with Mankind Divided than I did while playing through Human Revolution, including several optional interactions that existed solely to provide insight into the world. And within those conversations, I generally found more opportunities to make dialogue choices that diverted the exchange.
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My conversation with that crooked cop, for example, could have ended any number of ways depending on how hard I pushed him. During one playthrough, I took a hardline and openly threatened to expose his corruption. He responded by opening fire on me, and when other nearby officers followed suit, I was dead in an instant. When I tried again and humored him instead, I was rewarded with a side quest that ultimately allowed me to sabotage his extortion racket without getting murdered.
Other conversations were a bit more mixed. My talk with the forger was tense and intricate and forced me into several morally ambiguous decisions, but conversations between Jensen and his secretive ally Alex were generally thinly veiled exposition dumps rather than real, human interactions. Still, there's plenty more to see, and in all likelihood, conversations will carry more weight once the story has had a chance to develop.
As expected, Jensen's sporting several new augments--the controversial cybernetic enhancements at the center of the game's story. Among the new options: a concussive blast that's essentially a Force Push, a non-lethal option for the Typhoon area attack, a speed burst that allows Jensen to dash across short distances, a remote hacking ability, and straight-up bullet time.
While these added upgrades are of course welcome, they do come at a cost. Basically, Jensen's existing augments get a little wonky after he's involved in a serious incident early in the game. When he goes in for the repairs, his eccentric engineer discovers these dormant augments hidden inside Jensen's body. They're cool and powerful and stuff, sure, but activating any of them raises Jensen's heat output over 100%, which, according to the engineer, could cause his body to "malfunction." In order to reduce Jensen's heat to an acceptable level, you have to permanently disable an existing augment for each experimental augment you activate.
At least, that's the idea. However, I actually left Jensen's heat level at 150% and never noticed any side effects, though it's possible I missed something or simply misunderstood the system. The real limiting factor, as before, is the ungenerous energy bar, which drains quickly any time you use an augment and only recharges to a point unless you use a consumable.
Mankind Divided's crafting system is the weakest of all the additions. By collecting generic "crafting parts" scattered around the environments, you can purchase basic upgrades for your weapons such as increased damage or a higher rate of fire--nothing that drastically alters or augments the way the gun functions in-game. You can also craft various consumables like armor piercing rounds and special one-use hacking tools. All of this can be accomplished in the menu system, so no need to find a workbench or anything like that.
While it's possible the crafting system grows more robust as you progress deeper into the campaign, I didn't see any indications of how the system might grow or evolve. In reality, it seems like less of a crafting system and more of a simple way to improve your gear's stats over time, which is honestly fine. With all the stealth, hacking, augments, and combat at play, there's already more than enough complexity in Mankind Divided to keep even the most fickle gamer engaged.